Author; G. Jefferies
In a pub in Compton, the paranormal brothers are trying to makes sense of their recent investigations. Rumour and hauntings begin to find a common purpose. Trouble is they are two points short of a pentagram.
This is the fourth part of a short story series that began as just that; some short stories. Unlike it’s predecessors, this is where I found things beginning to evolve into something that gels as a cohesive piece. Where thoughts collided and began to join together. Not that this is the final product. It’s is still uncut and awaiting further expansion, tweaks and assimilation into a manuscript. There it will change much, but for now it is fine as a short series.
This one is not spooky, as such, but to make sense one might need to read the precursor tales, in order, to make sense of things.
If you want to see more then please say so in the comments and please feel free to share any of my post. It will be hugely appreciated!
Allan and Joseph Carmichael sat in the snug of the Royal Oak pondering the results of the night before. Both were enjoying a pint each of a local micro-brewery speciality; as recommended by Derrick Henderson, licensee and barkeep and quaintly named the Bishops Fiddle. They were unusually quiet and reflective. Footage of the ghost walk and, more specifically, the ghostly murder under a Hunter’s Moon, from all four cameras had revealed nothing at all. Allan sat, elbows on table and head in hands looking glum.
“We did actually see this villainy didn’t we Al?”
Joseph had an inane tendency for self doubt in the absence of evidence. After all, it had been misty and the orange glow from a lunar cyclops might have created some sort of optical illusion that the moment turned into an apparition. The fact it was midnight and rich in atmosphere and history might have done the rest.
From his beer glass watching, Allan was more certain.
“Jo, I feel I am not prone to hallucinations, particularly whilst not under the influence of alcoholic beverages. It concerns me more that our assorted digital optics never actually record anything that we experience. It is as though we are being shown things that are, quite literally, for our eyes only.”
He was thinking about the two recent investigations; the missing persons in the old Hamilton Place and last nights observance of the walker on the abandoned Roman roadway. He already knew this very pub was filled with history and had a reputation for queer activities. The appearance of Victorian letters on the bar, visitations by a Lady in Blue and the sudden disappearance of the addressee only very recently. It was said the cleaner would no longer do the bar top on the basis the letters were sent to those about to die. The ensuing rumours had done wonders for the paranormal trade, with the landlord filling the normally empty Tuesdays and Thursdays with various societies connected with the occult.
It seemed the Oak was the centre piece of some mystical resonance. At least that was the conclusion of Compton Paranormal Society, or CPS; not to be confused with a governmental organisation involved with law and order. Who was the landlord to say otherwise? Moreover the loss of his prime patron, David Arthur Williams – very good friend and former ground keeper to Compton Crematorium and Cemetery – had left him feeling somewhat perturbed and deeply interested in things outside of the normal perception of reality.
Allan had “people watched” Derrick and his barmaid, Jennifer, over the weeks since both he and his brother became aware of the new page on the pub website. One that now contained Minutes of the various society meetings. He concluded Derrick knew far more than he ever let on about the letters and Jennifer, whilst being drop dead gorgeous, was a member of an organisation embedded deeper inside the CPS. On this, however, she was extremely guarded, but, nevertheless, had a tiny tattoo inked on the centre of her left wrist; a pentagram inside a circle. The symbol of witchcraft, but getting further information out of her had, thus far, proved as impossible as extracting red life fluids from the proverbial stone.
Something was off, and Allan was certain it was staring him in the face. Except currently, the stare comprised a half emptied glass, resting on a beer mat that someone had peeled the label off.
“Jo, whats in the diary for the immediate future pertaining to our unrecordable investigations?”
Joseph fished out a small black leather journal and sighed dejectedly.
“Three things have been pencilled in it seems; we have the notorious chapel ruins on the other side of the cemetery, the wailing monk at the juncture of the West Road, where it hits the former Black Swan Coach House, and a somewhat sketchy idea to return to the Hamilton residence and go behind the boards for a look round the inside.”
He left the pages open for Allan to read and got up to refresh the glasses. At the bar Derrick served up two more Bishops. “How did the ghost walk fare last night my good man?”
Jo deposited coin onto the polished oak of the bar.
“It went better than expected, although not so for the unfortunate phantasm of local legend. It seems we witnessed his murder.”
The barkeep paused before returning to the till. “You actually saw it?”
“Yes, but it seem our electronics failed to recored anything at all.”
Jennifer was now discreetly within earshot. Derrick continued, not entirely certain his auditory functions were in order. He thought the chap had said yes and was fencing a look of wide eyed disbelief.
“But you actually saw the ghost?
Jo took a sip of his ale.
“Clear as day, except it was night…but the moon was full. Certainly there was something there; although without film proof its just another anecdotal tale.”
He went back to staring into his pint. Allan had noticed Jennifer listening in to something at the bar so decided to temporarily relocate and see if there might be an opportunity to learn more.
Derrick deposited change into the hand of Joseph as his brother dropped onto a bar stool next to him.
“I disagree Jo, we have no physical proof no, but nevertheless we both witnessed the same event.”
“Which was exactly? asked Derrick who was now thinking marketing.
“Like, I said,” began Jo, “just after midnight the ghost of a man headed up the road in this direction, paused like he heard something behind him, turned, turned again, ran, fell over and a blade appeared through his chest.”
Allan nodded in agreement. Jennifer drew closer, green eyes dropping onto Joseph as he spoke, waiting for him to finish before stepping in. “But did you see who it was that actually stabbed him?”
The brothers looked at each other.
“Yes and no,”said Allan. “It was like for a moment I saw something out of the corner of my eye, behind our lead chap, but when I went to look there was nothing there. I put it down to shadows dancing in the mist.”
“Same here,” Joseph was slowly nodding, “at one point I was almost certain I saw a something moving, but I can’t quite describe it, or even say for definite it was there.”
Derrick wound a cloth inside a pint glass polishing it’s surface “So, the ghost has a ghost,” he ventured. “Maybe it is this shadowy revenant that is seeking retribution upon a even earlier misdemeanour.”
Jennifer rolled her eyes. “Did at any point you see the eyes of this shadow?”
Allan quickly shook his head while Joseph considered the question over a mouthful of beer.
“No,” he said. “What makes you ask that?”
The barmaid smiled, rolled her wrist slightly to expose the tattooed pentagram before turning away leaving them with, “No reason, but this area seems to have more than its fair share of visits by the Shadow People.”
Derrick swiftly took up the call. “Yes, we have had a few in here. Beer orderers that slip away when its busy, forgetting to deposit revenue unto my till.”
Jennifer turned back to throw a beer towel at him. The brothers took up the reference however. Both had heard that phrase before and were making mental notes to consult further with a well known search engine later that very evening.
Allan returned to the journal entries in the snug. The sight of Jennifer’s tattoo had lit a small flame in his head. Two trips to the Hamilton house counted as the same place so that was one, ghost walk was two, wailing monk was three and chapel ruins was four. What was the fifth? If his hunch was right then he was one short and needed an ordnance survey map of Compton, and the surrounding district.
At the bar Derrick and Joseph were deep in discussion looking at the space between two pumps on the bar. It was one sentence by Derrick that grabbed Allan’s subconscious.
“And this is where the Blue Lady’s letters from 1875 appeared.”
Allan jumped up. “Eureka,” he shouted, to no one in particular. Three sets of raised eyebrow eyes turned towards him in the snug.
“Everything alright there Al?” enquired his brother in one of those ‘too many beers mate’ voices.
“Ordnance survey map of hereabouts Jo, do we have one?”
“I have one in the pub library since this matter appears rich in an aura of urgency.” Derrick disappeared, returning with a somewhat battered looking vintage document. He opened it on the bar corner conspiratorially. Jennifer was back on board and rather bemused by the sudden euphoria that, currently, appeared unique to one brother.
Allan’s eyes dropped onto the map. “Pencil please.”
His palm opened upwards over the counter while his optics remained glued to the aged chart. Jennifer duly produced the required implement.
The pub was located first, followed by the ghost walk, Hamilton house, chapel and finally the former Black Swan Coach House – now boarded up and derelict.
His voice became excitedly hushed. “What do you see?”
Derrick was swift to speak up. “Five crosses upon my antiquated ordnance survey map that, prior to this eve, was immaculate apart from many decades wear and tear.”
Jennifer nudged him in the ribs with an elbow. Her mind was following the points and a sense of foreboding was settling in her stomach to go with a sudden dryness of palette.
Allan looked up. “I’ll buy you a new one if I can defile this further with the aid of a ruler.”
“In which case I shall accept your courteous trade.”
As Derrick concluded negotiations Jennifer was in the process of handing over the required inventory. She already knew what was about to be revealed. A five point star around which a perfect circle could be drawn.
“Where is the centre located?” She asked this in a voice so commandingly hushed that all eyes turned, first to her, and then, to her tattoo.
“It seems,” said Allan, “that it is in the middle of a bog called The Marshes.”
If you made it here, then thank you for taking the time to read. Not, perhaps a continuation of expectation, if you read the previous exploits. I do hope you see reasoning in the change of tack though. Like I said before, these add back story to other books. And yes, I know they need tweaking, but if they become a manuscript then that is where the transformation from short story anthology will turn into the real deal.
Shares or comments are welcome and if you want more then say so or I shall turn to other projects 👻
© G Jefferies and Fictionisfood, 2016. All rights reserved.